Lavender can be a new and unusual crop that can be integrated into a range existing grower holdings, and it can even integrate well with other products such as honey if you have hives on site.
Dried lavender can be sold as a variety of products such as dried flowers, prepared into bunches either by itself or mixed with other dried flowers like thistle and Gypsophila. For pick-your-own sites lavender can make an attractive addition to the farm site. Large lavender plantations can even be hired out for wedding photograph scenery! From a growing perspective, lavender can be easily cultivated with few pest and disease problems in the long term. Once planted lavender can last for 6 – 10 years according to soil, variety and weather conditions before requiring replanting.
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Lavender is best suited to area of low rainfall, in calcareous, stony, well-drained soil in dry, sunny situations. Light loam over chalk is the most suitable, although sandy loams can be used if suitably limed. Free draining soil is essential, making heavy soils unsuitable due to the increased risk of disease. Frost-free areas, and protection from strong winds is also required.
Lavender will be well suited to mild Welsh winters, but high rainfall and strong wind exposure can prove a challenge to the crop. It’s best to plant lavender in sheltered fields, but if you want to grow on an exposed site consider wind breaks to protect the crop.
The main commercial varieties are Grosso, Provence, Gros Blue and Dutch Mill. L. x intermedia hybrids (commonly known as Lavandin) are recommended for oil extraction and fresh and dried flowers – they flower profusely, giving large flower heads with a greater oil content than L. angustifolia varieties. These varieties are very hardy, flowering from July to late August. Plants can also reach 60cm, making an impressive sight for visitors. However, dwarf L. angustifolia varieties like Hidcote Blue, Maillette and Munstead are recommended for dried flowers as they have strong flower retention after drying. L. angustifolia varieties also produce greater quality oil for perfume and cosmetic use. Plug plants raised from seed are likely to be available from ornamental propagators – avoid cutting material from avoid biosecurity risks.
Lavender can be harvested July – August. If cutting for oil distillation all flowers must be in open, generally a week later than flowers would be cut for the fresh or dried market. Flowers are best cut when the plants are dry, and strong sun will improve the oil content. If you plan to grow for oil production you must carefully consider the availability of a distiller, or research and invest in your own distillation apparatus – how the crop is distilled is likely to have a significant impact on how you harvest and handle your crop. Oil yields of 35 – 45 kg oil/ha are achievable in a good year, but 11 kg oil/ha is likely to be more representative. Lavender grown for dried flowers should be cut just before the flowers reach full bloom. These should be laid in open trays and dried outdoors in the sun (covered up at night) or in a well-ventilated, dry room.
Some die back may be seen 3-4 years after planting – this is generally non-specific and due to a variety of purposes. The worst problems are seen in tunnels, especially if kept wet. Pest pressure is generally low, and most disease problems can be managed culturally – this can even be an ideal crop to grow organically. Disease is unlikely to be a significant problem in field grown lavender. Root rots like Armillaria, Fusarium, Pythium and Phytophthora can be a risk, especially in wet fields. Septoria leaf spot and Vertilicillium wilt should also be watched for. Phoma may become evident from May onwards as young shoots become chlorotic and wilt. Infected plants should be lifted and destroyed quickly, alongside adjacent plants to contain the spread.
Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information and recommendations given in these notes. All applications of crop protection chemicals should be made in accordance with label recommendations, which should be consulted before spraying. Some of the pesticides mentioned in these notes may not be supported by label recommendations for their use on pumpkin crops but are permissible via Extension of Authorisation for Minor Use (EAMU) in the UK under ‘The Revised Long Term Arrangements For Extension Of Use (2002)’. In these cases, the use of the pesticide is at the risk of the user and Tyfu Cymru does not accept liability for any loss or damage caused by such use. The references to on-label approvals and EAMUs for use of pesticides in pumpkin crops and are correct at the time of writing. These are subject to change and approval may be withdrawn at any point. It is the grower's responsibility to check approvals before use of pesticides. If in doubt a grower should seek advice from a BASIS qualified advisor - this is available free of charge for eligible growers through the Tyfu Cymru program, please contact us to arrange an appointment – email/telephone advice is also available.